Post Thanksgiving: A Turkey Day Recap

This post may seem a little untimely, but I left my computer cable Sofia and was unable to retrieved it till this weekend, so I apologize for my Thanksgiving re-cap post about 2 weeks late!
Still full of Turkey Day spirit!
I don’t think the term shattered completely encompasses how I felt the day after Thanksgiving.  The mass quantities of wine ingested during the course of dinner probably didn’t help much or the copious amounts of food.  The meal was a success for the most part, but there were a few snafus along the way. Looking back on the meal, the cooking, the preparation, I feel the need to share a few things that I learned.

My Thanksgiving meal starts a few weeks before the actual day, when I begin gathering my research materials, which help me build my menu.  Usually, I try to find a theme to bind the meal together, but this year, I kind of winged it; selecting recipes and sides that sounded delicious, but also making sure that many colors were represented. I have a large selection of Thanksgiving recipe books and old November issues of culinary magazines, plus a folder of random loose recipes that I have printed out over the years.

I gathered my reading materials and started to sort through and tag with post-its possible 2010 contenders and managed to narrow it down to these lovely dishes, which I photocopied to preserve my books and resources (anal retentive… yes, I know):
Glittering Spiced Walnuts
Spinach Dip with Crudités
Spicy Three-Cheese Spread
Soup
Americano’s Chanterelle Mushroom Soup
Main
Sage-Brined Roast Turkey with
Whole Wheat Stuffing with Pomegranate bacon, Chestnuts and Parmesan
Potato Gratin with Mushrooms and Gruyère
Braised Chestnuts with Madeira Cream Sauce
Maple Braised Butternut Squash with Fresh Thyme
Chiffonade of Brussels Sprouts with Diced Pomegranate Bacon and Hazelnuts
Cranberry Sauce
Dessert
Apple Crostata with Cheddar Crust
Pear Crostata with Figs and Honey
Persimmon Pudding

Once I figure out the recipes, I begin to assemble a shopping list and schedule.  This year I decided to forgo typing my schedule, but keeping organize with my white board.  I think I prefer this method of organization because it is larger and allows me to really visualize what I have yet to do. Although my typed version is much more detailed breaking down recipes into various steps and elements.
This was my status mid-afternoon on Wednesday.

While Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, including my birthday, which not technically a holiday, but does falls on Groundhogs Day (US), I always overdo it, just in different ways every year.  For example, the first time I hosted a Thanksgiving in 2000, I made 9 different pies for 9 adults.  For those of you who have trouble with math that is a pie a person… so, in retrospect I now consider this an unhealthy pie to person ratio. This year, while hosting only 4 adults and my 2 girls; created 3 starters, a soup, a turkey, 6 side dishes and 3 desserts, which wouldn’t be that bad, but I neglected to adjust the original serving sizes from 8 – 10 people.

The amount of food was insane.  I felt horribly wasteful.  Most of the leftovers were eaten over the course of a few days, but one of my pies just completely went to waste and got moldy before we could touch it!

R.I.P Apple Crostata with Cheddar Crust

TIP: Cook for the actual guests you in attendance, not the dinner party in your head.  Just because you are a glutton doesn’t mean everyone else is too!

A few days before Thanksgiving, I received some frantic phone calls and text messages about where to find a turkey in Bulgaria. I have never had a problem finding a frozen turkey in Sofia or Kyustendil.  They are available in the frozen meat section.

Пуешко месо (pu-esh-ko me-so) = turkey meat
For the last 4 years, Doux has been the only brand of bird that I have found.  If you are lucky enough to know someone who keeps live turkeys, then that would be your best bet for procuring a fresh bird.  My only concern is the storage and transportation of the bird after it has been killed.  Turkey is not something that Bulgarians eat regularly, so be mindful of salmonella and other such things. 
TIP: If you are buying a frozen bird.  Allow yourself at least 4 DAYS to thaw the bird in the refrigerator. So, this means you need to buy your bird on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  Most rapid thawing of frozen poultry lead to questionable flavors and textures.  If you have ever had rubbery/gummy chicken in a restaurant in Bulgaria, you know exactly what I mean.

All in all I would categorize the meal as a success.  I am certain next year will be my best Thanksgiving thus far.  I am already planning it now.  I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays thus far.  Do you have any holiday meal planning tips that help you year after year?

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Free-Form Apple Tart

The Monthly Mingle was started by Meeta at What’s for Lunch Honey. It is a monthly blogging event that I wish I participated in more frequently because it is nice to connect with European food bloggers! This month’s Mingle was all about fruit in baking, which is really apropos to the Thanksgiving season.  I have pies on the brain and with the abundance of harvest fruits, this seems like good fit.

I chose to make a Free-Form Apple Tart from November’s Food and Wine magazine. I have a love/hate relationship with pie crust and because of this I challenge myself constantly with improving my dough techniques. I had never attempted a this sort of crust, so why not, plus my husband has been hassling me make some snacks… desserts… whatever.

Here are some of my favorite pie crust tips:

1.) Make sure all your ingredients are cold! Butter… chilled, ice-water… icy, flour… cold, mixing vessel… in chilled. Why?  The cold ingredients is what makes you pastry flaky. If you let you butter melt, say from the warmth of you hands… the crust will be dense and crispy.

2.) Work quickly. Have everything you need ready, including your plastic wrap ready to go. If you ingredients get warm (see #1) your crust will disappoint.

3.) Take notes. There are many many pie crust recipes and not all of them work. Find what recipes gives you success and perfect upon it.You will come to see the similarities. For example, this recipe was nearly identical to my favorite Pâte Brisée from Martha Stewart, except it called for less butter and was for one tart instead of two crusts. I found this crust very easy to work with.

Free-Form Apple Tart adapted from Sam Mogannam

Dough:

2 1/2 cups (16 oz/ 454g)  all-purpose flour
1 1/2 stick (6 oz/ 170g) unsalted butter cut into (1/2″/1.25 cm) cubes
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup (6 oz/ 178 ml) ice water

Filling:

1/2 cup of sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 lg egg white, beaten
2 tbsp, turbinado or raw sugar

Method:

For the dough, with either a food processor fitted with the metal blade attachment or a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar and salt and then pulse or turn on low to combine.

On a low speed, add the butter until it combines and is crumbly. With the machine running, add 1/4 cup of the ice water. This part is tricky… continue adding small amounts of the ice water till the dough is just evenly moist.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and kneed quickly, until it comes together. Pat the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill of at least an hour or overnight.

Pre-heat the oven to 400F (205C). Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough to a 17″ (44 cm) round, then trim it neatly to 16″ (40.5 cm). Transfer the dough to the cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Add the apples and the lemon juice. Toss well. Leave a three inch (7.65 cm) border then begin layering in a circle. Then repeat and create a second layer of apples. Stuff any remaining apples in any large gaps. Fold the excess dough to create an over lapping rim. Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 55 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

This tart exceeded my expectations. The flavors were fresh and simple. I would easily make this again, but next time ease up on the lemon. I was a bit heavy handed. All in all it was a treat for the whole family. A little Monday night Thanksgiving pre-game!

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